By Ethan Harmon
The 90s were crammed with forgettable action films. Bullets flying across the screen, blood spraying from wounds, laughable one-liners; there were very few that stood out from the pack. One of these lackluster films, the 1995 dystopian sci-fi shooter Judge Dredd, has recently received a reboot. But unlike the disappointing Sylvester Stallone installment, the new release, Dredd 3D, successfully creates an entertaining story while also performing some fan service. For those who were fans of the comic, rest assured, Dredd keeps his helmet on for the entire runtime.
Dredd 3D follows Judge Dredd (Karl Urban), a cop given the full power of the judicial system, who sentences unlucky criminals to jail time, or in most cases, death. Dredd, after cleaning up the futuristic city with his special handgun, is given an assignment to train and watch over the latest Judge recruit, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). Upon an investigation of a triple homicide, the two uncover a drug ring in a Megablock – massive buildings that rise two hundred stories tall – run by Ma-ma (Lena Headey), a former hooker turned kingpin. With no escape, the two must battle their way up the building and serve justice to Ma-ma and her group of thugs.
Director Pete Travis avoids all of the pitfalls of the previous outing of Judge Dredd. Instead of cramming in as many shoot-outs as possible into every frame, Travis allows the actors to carry themselves throughout each scene. Karl Urban does a fantastic job as the stoic, hardened Dredd. Instead of spitting out clever quips and shooting everything in sight, Urban instead allows his tone and lack of emotion to create a dark presence around the brutal Judge. Thirlby also does a great job as Anderson, showing how the trainee conflicts with her emotions while trying to become the hollow cop that Dredd has grown into. Lena Heady – some may remember her as Cerci from Game of Thrones – does not have as much screen time as the other actors, but she does well crafting a sociopathic villainess.
The one thing that is surprising about Dredd 3D is the fact that the character remains a complete mystery throughout the film. Usually, in movies such as this, the script provides a backstory for the protagonist to justify his/her actions. In this film, however, it is completely absent. Yet, such a thing is actually refreshing. Audiences will want to know what makes Dredd tick, why he is the most notorious Judge, and why he is so cold. Because these questions go unanswered, it makes the character much more interesting, and makes the viewer invest in the story. The viewers will only know that Dredd is a Judge and has to perform his job, and the movie is better off because of it.
Dredd 3D is a surprisingly well-made action movie. The cinematography is fantastic, capturing each shot with the right about of intensity. The action is hard-hitting, brutal, and sometimes very grotesque. Director Pete Travis and his cast of actors have tried very hard to make this film a step-up from the last outing and they have succeeded by leaps and bounds. In fact, this movie will most likely make you completely forget about the Sly version. For an action movie with a good story and depth, go see Dredd 3D, but do not be late, or it will be “judgment time.”